National Nutrition Month, celebrated each year by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a great time to think about developing healthy eating habits. This includes practicing mindful eating. You may have heard of the term “mindfulness” defined as focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. According to Harvard Health, this can also be applied to eating. Practicing mindful eating means paying attention to your food – what you buy, how you prepare it, serve it, and consume it.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Mindful eating can be an empowering way of looking at food. It allows you to focus on your values and decide why you personally want to eat healthy. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some benefits of mindful eating include:
- Enjoyment and appreciation of food
- Improved digestion
- Regular eating patterns
- A more positive attitude toward food and ourselves
What are examples of mindful eating?
Practicing mindful eating means being aware of what is causing your unhealthy eating patterns. In order to eat mindfully, you will have to give your habits some thought. Some examples of mindful eating from the Cleveland Clinic include:
- Sitting down to eat rather than eating while in the car, at your desk, or while watching TV. Sitting at a table without distractions helps us be mindful of how much we’re eating and stay focused on food.
- Pausing between each bite to ask if you are satisfied and if you can stop eating there.
- Keeping your house filled with healthy snacks. Making fruits and nuts easy to access makes it easier to eat those foods instead of unhealthier options.
How do I practice mindful eating?
With the help of the Cleveland Clinic, the ApexHealth team put together some tips on how to practice mindful eating:
1. Change your attitude about food
Always think positive! Instead of saying “I can’t have something to eat” think of it as “I choose not to eat that.” If you have a negative attitude about the food you are missing, it will be harder to succeed. Telling yourself that you can’t have a certain type of food only puts it on a pedestal and makes it more desirable. Instead, try saying, “I am satisfied with just a little bit of this food.” Remember, mindful eating is not about good food or bad food. It is about whether the food gives you the energy you need for the life you lead.
2. Plan for success
Eating mindfully starts with shopping mindfully. When choosing your groceries for the day or week, create a concrete list and stick to it. Avoid distractions in the grocery store like candy by the cashiers and the middle aisles of the store. These aisles tend to be filled with processed foods that will not give you long-term energy.
You should also create a meal plan for each day of the week. You can include snacks as a part of your meal plan. Being conscious of when you plan to eat foods that are less nutritious can help you eat less of those foods.
3. Consider how you’re coming to the table
Don’t come to the table too hungry. Eating only when you are ravenously hungry makes it tempting to eat whatever you can find as quickly as possible. Experts suggest eating smaller meals at three-hour intervals to make sure that you don’t go too long without eating. Make these mini meals a part of your daily meal plan.
You should also come to the table with gratitude. Mindful eating includes taking time before each meal to appreciate all the time and effort that went into creating a healthy meal to fuel your body and feeling grateful for the food you are about to experience.
4. Take time for food
When we eat quickly, our bodies are not able to process the signals that let us know when we are full. It may be helpful to set a timer for your meal. Take 20 minutes to enjoy a smaller portion of food and savor it for the entire 20 minutes. By the end of that time, you will likely have a better idea of whether or not you are full.
You should also chew slowly, chewing 20-40 times per bite. This helps you enjoy the flavors of your food and enjoy each dish long enough to know if you are full.
5. Evaluate how food makes you feel
Mindful eating should be non-judgmental. Instead of thinking of certain foods as good or bad, pay attention to how the food makes you feel. Does it provide you with energy or does it leave you craving more? Foods that give you energy are the foods you should incorporate more of into your day.
Mindful eating is not about perfection. You can get more of your daily nutrients by eating healthy only 80-85% of the time! That leaves plenty of room to have occasional planned indulgences and continue living a happy and fulfilling life.
At ApexHealth, we like to say, “Long Live Life.” Eating healthier and practicing mindful eating is one step you can take to living life boldly. Remember that content from this article is for informational purposes only, and it should never be substituted for medical advice. For all matters related to your medical health, we recommend contacting your doctor or healthcare provider.
ApexHealth is a Medicare Advantage plan that has your back. Give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.